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    Tender is the Night and the "American Dream"

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    Joumen

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    Tender is the Night and the "American Dream"

    Post by Joumen on Sun Feb 18, 2007 5:12 pm

    Hi
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    This is my first essay
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    Tender is the Night is a counter-narrative of the American Dream (it attacks the American Dream).


    The New Era witnessed the birth of a new generation of American novelists whose writings expressed the new ideas and new values of the age. Among these novelists, we mention F.Scot Fitzgerald who stands out as the one who most brilliantly captured the tone and the temper of the Jazz Age. In Tender is the Night, he mirrors the Roaring 20s, the period that testified the counterfeit of the American idealism through the novel’s American characters and mainly Dick Diver. In this essay, I am going to show how the moral, physical, and psychological collapse of Dick Diver in Tender is the Night parallels the collapse of the American social, economic, and political idealism.



    First, Tender is the night is a satire on the social American idealism. The decline of this latter is showed through the weakening of the protagonist Dick Diver morally. In fact, Dick represents the complex moral and social disintegration of the American Idealism. He is the symbol of American Dream which promises people to be happy in that ideal land; because “their happiness [is] his pre-occupation”, “he [wins] everyone quickly”. As we can see, we cannot distinguish whether Fitzgerald talks about Dick Diver or the U.S. They are the same since they are concerned with the happiness of the others. However, the belief that America can make people’s happiness is but an illusion. In Tender is the Night, the American character Dick Diver fails in providing happiness not only to others but also to him, he says, “I don’t seem to bring people happiness any more”. When he confronts with this consumer society, he recognizes that it is a hedonistic one since people look only for money and fun and neglect values. People are rich but selfish and egocentric that is why Dick is corrupted since, at the end of the novel, he is “no longer a serious man”; his wife Nicole finds that “the most unhappy aspect of their relations [is] Dick’s growing indifference, at present expressed by too much drinking”. That is why she regards him with “contempt”. This is the real image of American society, a sick environment; though people are wealthy, they are not happy. Thus, the dream of happiness in the U.S is just a chimera. Besides, the corruption of family is an other example that shows the lie of the ideal society. During the Roaring 20s, women experienced a new freedom and American society is dominated by “maternal super ego”. Men lost their “virility” since their role is no longer important. In Tender is the Night, Dick Diver is destroyed because money and wealth belong to woman hand, his wife. The power of money makes a female feel liberated; “he no longer controls her”. That is why, when Dick wants to play a father figure, he fails. In deed, both Nicole and Rosemary love him because he represents the symbol of the father figure. Because he finds himself unable to provide people with happiness, he becomes sad and looses all the social prestige, his wife, and his children. His moral decline in Tender is the Night reflects the decline of American society.



    Moreover, apart from attacking the American ideal society, Tender is the Night satirizes the American wealth and economy. In fact, the collapse of Dick physically and financially is in line with the collapse of American wealth. The American Dream makes people infatuated with wealth and success. However, the extreme richness makes people idle, and because “idleness is the mother of all vices”, people looses little by little the pleasure of life and success; as it is said “easy come, easy go”. It is a land that absorbs the brilliance and the dreams of people. In Tender is the Night, the fresh, brilliant, and successful student, Dick Diver has the potential to be a good psychiatrist- “may be to be the greatest one that ever lived”. He is described as “a superman in possibilities”. He has dreams not only for himself but also for all people. However, not only does he embody the strength with vitality and intellectual capacity but also the weakness of his country’s wealth. Being affected by wealth, he becomes the victim of his own illusion, the American Dream; at the end of the novel, he is unable to cure neither people nor himself. He becomes physically impotent; due to his inertia, “three times he tries and three times he fails to get up on the board”; he says to his wife Nicole, “I can’t do anything for you anymore. I’m trying to save myself”. His wealth destroys him and serves “to belittle his own work”. The special way of life of material achievement, of consumerism, of leisure, and of freedom he has, his life has no meaning. Given limitless time and freedom, everything, as Dick eventually blurts out to Mary North, comes to seem “damned dull”. He becomes aware that his life becomes hollow and dreary and that he has “lost himself” because he lives in a blank time since he cannot “tell the hour when, or the day or the week, or the month or the year”. His collapse at the end of the novel goes in parallel with the fact that the Roaring 20s came to an abrupt end with the collapse of the Stock Market on Wall Street. After an economic expansion, the dream of wealth is vanished with the rise of unemployment and poverty. Dick’s illusion is “the illusion of a nation, the lies of a generation”. This is the counterfeit of American dream of wealth, to be rich means to be sad, idle, and on the edge of collapse.




    Furthermore, regardless of criticizing the American society and wealth, Tender is the Night is a counter- narrative of the American political dream. The collapse of Dick mainly psychologically mirrors the superficial strength of the U.S. As a strong land, it promises people of being strong, powerful, successful, and happy. In fact, Tender is the Night shows that the strength of the U.S is an illusion; it just seeks the feeble moments of feeble nations. Dick Diver embodies the weakness of his country. Both of them derive power from the weakness of the others. Dick, who represents his country, needs to be loved by the others; that is why he always helps people. He comes to Europe with the illusion of an American citizen of eternal strength and health “as of the essential goodness of people, illusion of a nation, and the lies of generation of frontier”. He needs to be accepted by the other; “he [wants] above all to be brave and kind, he [has wanted] even more than to be loved”. Like his country, he attempts in vain to unify the chaos and to give a meaning to the disorder of this world. However, it is a fragile and counterfeit power because it is transferred to his wife Nicole and to the others. Thus, he collapsed psychologically. His strength is a dazzling false because he gets it at the expense of the other.



    In conclusion, Tender is the Night turns attention toward America’s social, economic, and political failings. It shows the American Dream as an illusion, a counterfeit, and a nightmare that makes people sad, idle, and pessimistic.


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